How the profit of Banksy was finally recognised

In the name of Christian forgiveness, Bethlehem residents are resurrecting a piece of graffiti by the British street artist Banksy after a misunderstanding left his artwork covered in white paint.

Banksy’s Bethlehem graffiti was meant to promote tourism but Palestinian residents had difficulty with the satirical images.

Just before Christmas a small group of incensed locals painted over a Banksy image of a soldier asking a donkey for identification papers in the belief that it compared Palestinians to donkeys.

https://i0.wp.com/londonist.com/attachments/sizemore/banksy2.jpg

Word soon spread that Banksy had intended to convey the plight of the Palestinians in Bethlehem, whose city is encircled by the separation barrier and Israeli military checkpoints – and that the image could be worth thousands of pounds. Residents are now trying to restore it by using paint removers and scrapers to peel back the white paint and reveal the original piece.

“We are working to bring back the art in the Christmas spirit of forgiveness and turning the other cheek,” said Jamil Daweeb, a teacher.

Another resident, who lives across the road from the image, said it was “a shame” that someone had painted over the artwork, when they could have taken it down and sold it for a profit.

Banksy, with other street artists, produced a series of images in Bethlehem to highlight the town’s plight.

An American buyer has offered £75,600 to one resident for the wall of his home, where Banksy spray-painted a little girl in a pink dress frisking a soldier for weapons.

Other images include a dove wearing a bulletproof vest with a sniper’s crossfire aimed at its chest, and a rat shooting a slingshot at an army watchtower. Residents have reportedly concocted schemes to remove images that are sprayed on larger blocks of concrete, and sell them to art buyers abroad.

While Banksy declined to comment on the incident, his press officer told The Times that the nature of street art was transient.

Japanese New Year – Art of the New Year

Without question, New Year’s (o-shogatsu) was, and to this day remains, the most important holiday within the Japanese festival calendar. Traditionally, New Year’s Day meant much more than just the beginning of another arbitrary yearly round, as it does in the modern West.

The author, Dan McKee is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Japanese literature program at Cornell University, NY.  He has a Master of the Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University, as well as an M.A. from Cornell. Dan McKee is presently writing a dissertation on “surimono as a literary practice in nineteenth century Edo.”

The New Year’s Festival and Japanese Prints

Indeed, New Year’s marked the rebirth of nature itself, as it was thought of as the first day of spring. And, due to the traditional manner of figuring age, by which one counted the yearly cycles one had been a part of, New Year’s was a “birthday” of sorts for everyone, the day on which all people added one to their ages (a baby born near midnight on the last day of the 12th month would thus be age 2 within an hour of its birth.)

But the importance the Japanese give to the New Year’s holiday can perhaps be most accurately attributed to a deep appreciation of the pure, fresh and unsullied that the beginning of a new cycle, both seasonal and personal, represented. Every activity, from bathing to handwriting, eating to dressing, had a renewed importance at the New Year, for these seemingly mundane actions would set the tone for the coming year. In the special, sacred time of beginnings, these and other activities were ritually arranged to have auspicious repercussions, while pleasurable entertainment and legends set a happy mood for the days to come. This short essay will examine some New Year’s practices and beliefs as they relate to ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Re-conceptualizing “New Year”

February 9, 2005, January 29, 2006 and February 18, 2007 will mark the beginning of what is now commonly known as “the Chinese New Year”. Based on lunar cycles rather than solar, the Chinese New Year festival begins on a night with a new moon, and ends 15 days later, on a night with a full moon. The Chinese lunar calendar is said to be the world’s oldest, purportedly having measured time for over 4500 years. Until the modern era, this calendar functioned as the standard for most of East Asia, including Japan, so what we now call “Chinese New Year” was in fact New Year in traditional Japan as well.

It is important to remember that by the lunar calendar New Year could fall anywhere between late January and mid February in the solar calendar, and not to think of traditional New Year as corresponding with our January 1. Indeed, New Year in old Japan was not a single day, but a half-month celebration. And, for most of Japan, this period was not the dead of winter, but, although still cold, the time when nature began to show signs of rebirth. Human beings thus also engaged in activities that would mark a fresh start, or “rebirth” in the New Year.

Cleaning Up Minds, Homes, Debts and Spirits

“The famous migrations of ukiyo-e artists like Hokusai and Kunichika from residence to residence probably had much to do with finances.”

“In with the new” first requires “out with the old”, so the close of each year is devoted to an elimination of dust and debts, worldly and spiritual. Troubles, pains and complexities can pile up in the space of a year, meaning that in order to start the coming year with a fresh spirit, it is first necessary to forget the old year.

Bonenkai, or “year forgetting gatherings”, typically accomplish their mission with lots of sake, and this seems as true of Edo period parties as it is of contemporary. In the home, cleaning away the old year means a furious sweeping from top to bottom, as seen in a comic pentaptych by Utamaro in the British Museum, showing courtesans giving their house a complete makeover, including the removal of several reluctant patrons.

Although scenes of debt collection, being less than memorable moments, do not appear in ukiyo-e as they do in fictional works by Saikaku and others, the famous migrations of ukiyo-e artists like Hokusai and Kunichika from residence to residence probably had much to do with finances, for one way of escaping local year-end debts was to move away to another area.

New Year’s Eve (o-misoka) was also a time for spiritual cleansing, and today many visit temples to hear the bell toll 108 times, one for the elimination of each human vice.

Making Mochi and other Delicacies

Emperor and Empress Meiji with New Year Dishes, ca. 1878
Emperor and Empress Meiji with New Year Dishes, ca. 1878
Kuniaki II Utagawa 1835-1888

On the practical side, as New Year’s was supposed to be a time of rest and celebration, preparations had to be made to insure that there was enough food made to last through the holiday. New Year’s foods were traditionally made to last, utilizing pickled, hard and salty items that would not go bad over the lengthy holiday. Many of these foods also had special auspicious meanings, often through puns on their names, with fish eggs implying fertility, black beans hard work, sea bream celebration, and thick seaweed felicitousness.

One common New Year food, also used as a household decoration, was mochi, a sticky rice cake that became hard on the outside when dried. Three round, plate-like mochi cakes were piled on one another to make kagami-mochi, which was offered to the Gods on the family altar. On the eleventh day of the year, this mochi would be removed, broken into pieces by hand, then cooked and eaten in various ways, either with sweet beans (shiruko) or in a miso soup called o-zoni. This practice developed specifically in samurai households, though most New Year practices can be traced back to the Imperial Court.

Kagami or “mirror” mochi, can often be seen in prints on the New Year, such the first print in one of Kunisada’s Go-seku (five seasonal festivals) sets. The process of making mochi, though strenuous, was rather fun and special, and also figures in a number of woodblock prints, especially nineteenth century triptychs. First sticky, cooked rice was put in a hard wooden container, then pounded regularly with a large mallet until it achieved a regular consistency. This “dough” was then divided, shaped and allowed to dry, after which it assumed a rock hard texture.

Mochi, when placed in soup or baked, assumes a consistency like melted mozzarella cheese, and can be tricky to eat. One sad irony of modern Japan is the casualty rate given each year for older people who choke on this glutinous food, being unable to chew it properly. Nevertheless, whatever its “dangers”, mochi remains one of the most special of New Year’s foods.

Catching the First Rays

New Year's Outing
New Year’s Outing
by Keishu Takeuchi 1861-1942

One common traditional New Year activity still practiced today is to wait up through the night to see the first sunrise of the New Year. The mythical tale explaining the seasons, in which the sun goddess Amaterasu hides herself away in a cave after her brother Susanoo’s commits rebellious and sacrilegious acts against her, thereby throwing the world in wintry darkness, explains the importance given to the emergence of the sun at the New Year. Amaterasu, the legend says, is drawn from the cave in curiosity at the laughter evoked by another goddess’ bawdy dance, and the world is restored to light and springtime. This myth, along with the mating practices of most of the natural world, explains some of the erotic connotations of the word “spring” in Japan (as in “spring prints” or shunga).

One of the most famous prints of a New Year’s sunrise is the masterpiece by Choki, which shows a single courtesan holding the collar of her kimono as she watches the sun rise over the sea. Many other prints of the sunrise are also actually New Year prints.

Manzai and Shishimai

The traditional practice of manzai, an entertainment of dance, song and music typically performed by itinerants, traces its legacy all the way back to the primal scene where Amaterasu, Goddess of the Sun, is drawn from her cave by the bawdy dance of Ame no Uzume. The idea of meeting the new spring with music and free bodily movement is based on this mythical paradigm, and Edo manzai performers considered themselves descendents of Ame no Uzume, lending sacred authority to their performances.

Ukiyo-e prints of manzai emphasize the fun, free-spirited and childlike wonder of these performances, typically employing loose, flowing lines to suggest movement. Kuniyoshi has several fine prints of manzai performers, as does Hokusai. Toyokuni I has a fine triptych of them as part of the series of the months he did with Toyohiro.

Lion-dog dances, or shishimai, which derived from China, were also often performed at the New Year, sometimes as part of manzai. Two men would form the body of the lion dog under a single cloth, while the decorated head would twist and move about in an eye-catching manner. There are a great many shishimai prints in ukiyo-e, not all of them associated directly with the New Year, as shishimai became a part of the kabuki repertoire as well. Eisen, though, has a charming triptych of children playing with shishimai dancers at the New Year, and there are many similar prints.

Decorations

Auctions of Japanese and Chinese Prints and Paintings since 2001.
Auctions of Japanese and Chinese Prints and Paintings since 2001.
We have the knowledge in Japanese woodblock prints of the Edo period.
New User?

Pine, plum and bamboo are said to be the “three friends of the cold season”. Though a typical New Year’s is a bit too early for actual plum blossoms, the pine and bamboo figure prominently in traditional New Year’s decorations. Pine, being evergreen, symbolizes constancy, while the bamboo, which bends but does not break, resilience-both pertinent metaphors for the passing of the seasons.

The display of green pine and bamboo arranged by the doors of homes is called the “kadomatsu” (“gate pine”). These are set up at New Year’s and remain for 14 days, a period called “matsu no uchi” (“within the pine”). Special ropes with zigzag streamers, called “shimenawa,” and generally used only at shrines, are also hung by gates and doorways, adding an aura of the sacred.

Both the kadomatsu and shimenawa often appear as motifs signaling the New Year in many Japanese prints, including prints of courtesans and actors offstage, as well as genre scenes and surimono.

The Renewal of Bonds: Surimono

Because the New Year spiritually marked a complete break with everything that had come before it, a virtual rebirth of the world, it was an important time not to re-center only one’s personal activities, but also to affirm and re-establish one’s connections with others. This could be done through a greeting, either in person or with the presentation of a note-often poetic-or a gift, including, for intimates, the toshidama (“year jewel”), coins wrapped in decorative paper.

Those familiar with the mid-nineteenth century work of the Utagawa School have no doubt seen the Toshidama form repeatedly, perhaps even without realizing it, for the Utagawa printmakers took this auspicious symbol as their emblem, and used it in titles and signature cartouches. Eighteenth century printmakers, including Kiyonaga and Shuncho, made the New Year visits of courtesans the subject of some fine triptychs, but the most important survival of this New Year practice is a whole genre of printmaking itself, surimono.

The surimono genre was born as a latter day version of the traditional poetic New Year greeting, only now printed rather than handwritten, and should be viewed in this context, as gift prints whose purpose was in part to affirm one’s bonds with others. Surimono, moreover, frequently present a kind of puzzle or riddle, with their webs of allusions and associated ideas, the resolution of which posits giver and receiver as like-minded. Symbolically, these gifts represent the experience of the New Year itself: an encounter with the new and unknown that is subsequently mapped backed onto the familiar, and ultimately found to be pleasurable.

Surimono are by no means the only Japanese prints dealing with the New Year, but they do provide the most extensive insight into New Year’s motifs, rituals and practices. In contemporary Japan, the social role of surimono has been taken over by nengajo, New Year greeting cards, which only rarely now contain poetry, poems no longer being the standard mode of formal communication and presentation.

The Seven Gods of Good Fortune and their Treasure Ship

One of the most colorful of New Year’s legends has it that the seven gods of good fortune, or shichifukujin, ride down from heaven into human harbors on the first three days of the New Year in their treasure ship (takarabune), bringing goodies for children. This bright-spirited scene, somewhat reminiscent of Santa Claus, is the subject of countless woodblock prints by artists from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, and a great deal of lore has developed around these seven gods of the New Year.

Their treasures, for example, are said to include a hat and robe of invisibility, an inexhaustible purse of gold, scrolls of wisdom, a divine robe of feathers, as well as jewels and rolls of brocade. Daikoku’s mallet, moreover, is said to produce coins when struck, and Hotei’s bag to contain endless treasures.

To each of the seven gods, moreover, particular positive qualities and roles have been assigned, so that together they can be seen to form the complete being or perfect happiness. Therefore, their combination is highly auspicious at the New Year. The bright, childlike spirit of the New Year is seen in many comic prints of the shichifukujin, particularly Hotei, whose “bag of treasures” frequently contains laughing children or treasures in other unexpected forms.

Utamaro has a comic triptych showing the seven gods playing party games in the pleasure quarters with courtesans, while Kunisada has one showing them entertaining a group of delighted children, both auspicious sets for the New Year. Quite unlike almighty Gods to be worshipped from afar, the shichifukujin took an active place in prints of daily life, sharing in these everyday activities and thereby enhancing them.

A Collection of Firsts

First Singing - Sanju Rokkasen, 1893
First Singing – Sanju Rokkasen, 1893
by Toshikata Mizuno 1866-1908

Each activity on New Year’s Day, being the first of the reborn world in the new cycle, assumed an added importance, as it would set the tone for the coming year.

Several New Year’s “firsts” assumed almost ritual proportions, including the year’s first writing, first dress, first water and first bathing. The year’s first calligraphy typically consisted of auspicious phrases, in some regions a formula for good fortune, with personal wishes or resolutions for the coming year.

Clothing for the New Year was typically worn for the first time then, adding to the sense of newness. Even the first drawing of water and the first bath of the year have ritual significance, and all of these activities can be found depicted, typically as a subtle background to a scene, in ukiyo-e.

Fortunate Dreams

The first dream of the year, or hatsu-yume, on the night after New Year’s Day, was traditionally thought to be a means of foretelling the nature of the coming year. Putting a drawing, painting or print of the takarabune beneath one’s pillow on New Year’s was said to bring good-auguring dreams. To dream of the takarabune itself was considered very lucky, as seen in a wonderful early triptych by Toyokuni I.

The most auspicious of dreams included Mt. Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant, though any one of these components alone was a positive sign. One theory has it that this combination represents high (takai, also meaning expensive) things, the third element, eggplant, added as a joke since it was so pricey in ancient Japan.

Japanese prints of the takarabune are a constant, seasonal theme from the eighteenth century on, and no doubt those surviving are but a small representation of the total number made for use. These tended to be fairly formulaic, so that the same pattern, design and even text can be found on prints of different decades. Prints including the hawk, eggplant and Mt. Fuji also exist. Hokusai produced a set on this theme for surimono, and worked them into the design for his book, One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Koryusai also has several prints including the auspicious combination.

New Year’s Games

Playing hagoita on New Year's Day, ca. 1904
Playing hagoita on New Year’s Day, ca. 1904
by Shuntei Miyagawa 1873-1914

Traditional New Year’s play tended to break down according to age and gender. Boys typically flew kites, while girls played with battledores and shuttlecocks (hanetsuki), though there was surely some overlap between the two. Adults, with children, sometimes played games with poetry, such as shell-matching with 36 poems or capping verses from the 100 poets (hyakunin isshu) with playing cards.

Flying a kite may seem like an innocent sort of play, but symbolically the kite represents a direct connection between the earthly and celestial realms, and so has become associated with religious festivals. Brightly colored and painted kites could entertain the gods, and the successful raising of a kite into the sky boded well for the coming year.

Battledores could be decorated with the faces of actors and courtesans, and a number of prints were made either directly for this practical purpose, or depicting famous faces on battledores within designs. Kunisada has several prints like this, as does Kunichika. Genre scenes of women or girls playing hanetsuki are also common. Eizan has a fine triptych of bijin playing among pine decorations, while the Meiji artists Shuntei designed some charming prints of girls playing battledore at New Year’s.

Courtesans playing the 100 Poets card game form the subject of a number of fine bijin works, including pieces by Eizan and Kunisada. This was also a common theme on surimono.

Day of the Rat Pine Pulling

Maiko Playing Shuttlecock
Maiko Playing Shuttlecock
by Sadanobu III Hasegawa 1881-1963

The first day of the rat (ne no hi, zodiac signs being applied to days as well as to years) was celebrated each year in a manner quite at odds with contemporary conservationist mentality: people would go out into the fields or countryside, and while collecting fresh herbs for New Year’s soup, pull up pine shoots by their roots.

This practice was called komatsubiki, or pulling the little pines, and dates back to at least the eighth century. The pine, ever green, is a sacred plant, and used, as we have seen, in New Year’s decorations, to signify constancy. Removing pines seems to have had a practical as well as ritualistic function, however, as it cleared room in the fields for other plants to grow.

Pine pulling on the first day of the rat frequently figures as a subject in surimono, though less so in commercial prints.

Seven Herbs Soup

From the evening of the sixth day of the New Year, a special soup called o-kayu is prepared, using the seven herbs of spring (haru no nanakusa). Kayu is made by boiling cooked rice in water until it breaks down and forms a porridge-like texture, to which the seven herbs are added. Consuming this mixture is thought to bring health, good spirits and extended longevity for the coming year.

The actual composition of the seven herbs varies from region to region, but a typical group includes shepherd’s purse, chickweed, turnip, water dropwort, henbit, cudweed and radish root (in Japanese, nazuna, hakobe, suzuna, seri, hotokenoza, hahakogusa, and suzushiro). The herbs are prepared in a ritualistic manner, chopped 28 times on the evening of the sixth, then 21 more times on the morning of the seventh, before being placed in the soup.

The seven herbs frequently figure as a subject in surimono, though not so often in commercial prints.

Summing Up

The New Year season is without question the most developed and important of celebrations in the traditional Japanese festival calendar, a 15 day period in which time is counted in ritual and event, within which rich lore and significance has accreted around even simple activities and items of daily life.

It should be no surprise then that the New Year also plays a large part in Japanese prints, not only for the cycles of publishing, but the subjects of the prints themselves. Although the most detailed and closely focused of New Year’s prints are surimono, and many artists focused their attention onto this field around the New Year, there are also a great many commercial prints that represent New Year celebrations, or create auspicious scenes to go with New Year ritual and festivity.

Dan McKee

Kazuya Akimoto Art Museum

In the spirit of Christmas I found this great abstract from the Kazuya Akimoto Art Museum.  Great to see something different which also happens to be abstract expressionism.  I also had a look at the blog and there is a section on Christmas.  Very interesting artworks, somewhat morbid but I still enjoyed the creativity.  Check it out for yourselves:

Kazuya Akimoto Art Blog0

“Christmas Dots”

Here is the artist’s statement, deep stuff:

Every art has a kind of language and its logic. In music, it is very clear. Of course, to use this language correctly in artwork doesn’t necessarily mean that the art is superb, or worth appreciating. There are far too many pieces of music which are correct in grammar that cannot attract our aesthetical attention.

  But artwork without including any language is not art, but chaos or only confusion which cannot be appreciated at least by human intellect, because we humanity  get the understanding and the meaning of our surroundings only through a kind of language system. This is also true in the field of visual art. Why some artworks catch our attention dramatically, only to make us get bored soon, and eventually have totally gone without being recorded even in our “oblivion”, not to mention our “memory”, while other artworks don’t attract much attention at first, and only gradually are they appraised by people, but in the long run they achieve eternal fame is because the former appeals only to our senses. These senses cannot retain its contents, because they are lacking in logic, which only can make people carry their sensory contents beyond time and space, and which only language system can provide. In contrast, the latter doesn’t always appeal to our senses at first sight. So many people who don’t understand these aesthetic languages and always believe only what their untrained senses tell them tend to ignore them, or cannot help ignoring them, as  we ignore foreign books written in foreign languages we don’t understand. But, perhaps, they will learn to decipher them intentionally or subconsciously in due course, because our cognitive senses gradually try to interpret the logical side of what we perceive around us, though at first they are dazzled by loud sensory data. When this attempt is successful even if partly, we cannot forget the meaning and the sense of beauty we’ve got with the help of the language system and its logic there used which we have newly acquired, because this logic of the artwork is now stored in our mind. We will come to experience and enjoy the sense (meaning) of beauty always, because they spring from the logic integrated within ourselves, not from the actual artwork. This is why some artworks are immortal, others not.

 

  I am not trying to deny our intuitive senses and feelings. They are not the first answers at the entrance as I said above, but the last answers at the exit. They are the back door –gatekeepers, not the front door. If we encounter what we can’t understand, what we don’t know, we use our feelings. We irresponsibly turn to our five senses. But the senses themselves, suddenly trusted with the serious situation, also cannot be sure of their judgment. They judge reluctantly. This is what we always do in our daily life. But, this usage of senses and feelings is not right, especially in aesthetic appreciation, though this is the way mediocre critics always treat with new art.

  Senses and Feelings have a yearning for norms to apply their intuitive power efficiently and correctly to actual objects. They want logic and they like to be trained by logic. They themselves know well that they can feel and sense the best on that condition. Once they are given and understand the logic of the situation, they turn into determined judges who decide decisively, without any delay, whether the logic is correctly used there and has an effect on our mind as an aesthetic expression, in other words, whether it is beautiful or not. In real artwork languages and logics used there are very complicated and we often cannot explain them at least with words. This is where senses and feelings must be ushered in. In a sense, as contrary to the public belief, feelings on this mission are more intellectual than our intelligence. They can discern what is beautiful in a flash, while our brain would take 100 years and still could not have found any right answers to it until then.

 

  I paint not for representing the outer world or the inner world, by giving free rein to my feelings or by imitating the real world, but for aesthetic languages and logics as I mentioned above. Look at my artworks. They are each different in their styles. To me, styles are something like clothes, and I put them on my work at the last stage, only after have I finished in my mind the essential part of the work. Through artworks, I want to show that logics once established can also be improved, or rather must be, or furthermore must be abandoned to proceed to the next step which it is necessary to take  for the standards of beauty of out time to be pulled up for the future. Seeing this phase in a different point of view, once we recognize a new logic, we are ready to understand and accept the next newer logic, the next beauty. This is an inevitable process for every one of us, and this is why all the people enjoy classics in impressionism, for example,  and at the same time they get bored when they see works newly  painted in that way. They even hate them. We are like children, with a strong will for learning, listening carefully to whatever teachers will say. We all know what we have already learned is important, that we have a deep respect for it and we can go forward only with its help. But we want to learn the more, the more deeply we love the present knowledge we have. What we once acquired is what we need no more, because we find them not outside but inside ourselves. We digested them. We love them because they are already part of ourselves. So if our teacher only repeats what we have already learned without any scheme, we as a child see through him, get irritated, and finally hate him.

  In the realm of beauty also, we cannot and don’t want to go backward again like these curious children. Beauty is beauty so long as it gets over its former beauty and is perpetually being reborn. Modern art is meaningless if it forgets to renew itself and expand and improve logics in art. But people might say not a few contemporary artists are terribly new, because they cannot understand them a bit! You are right. They are hard to understand. They are new in a sense that its freshness is soon to get old and tasteless.  They are con- and temporary- artists! But don’t blame them for their innocent crime.  They don’t know what they are doing. They are like a child who speaks a language whose grammar he or she doesn’t know. Some artists are original and seem to understand the meaning of art. But most of them are also criminals who are in the state of deadly sin. They tend to cling to one single style too often. They paint everyday the same paintings and the same themes.  History repeats itself, Beauty doesn’t. They might once have been great, but once they begin to imitate themselves, what they create becomes not an artwork, but a tiny little history.

  New art can only be possible by those who expand the boundary of  existing logics, and who can destroy them if necessary, of course, with deliberation,  not by those who call themselves artists and scatter colors and forms and their feelings like a three-year-old child.

  As in chemistry certain elements long for the states of noble gases, artists dream of immortality, or they should if they are an artist at all.  Immortality is like an abyss. When ordinary, ineligible artists come nearer to and look deep into it, they are seized with grave fear, turn their faces and run away from it never to return. All they can do is to look down.

  Immortality is also infinity. It can be enjoyed fully only by those artists who can look up and who have the ultimate ability to fly high.

 

  But where are they?…

 

  K.A.

Who am I? James Presley

To all the Pollocks the Bollocks fans that have visited my site, I am finally going to reveal my true identity. I started doing this blog in August and have had a tremendous success with it. Not only that but I have enjoyed doing it so much and I will continue to do so. I have sort of run out of abstract expressionists to blog about but would appreciate any ideas and I am sure I will think of more, but I intend to keep writing about abstract art, maybe not biographies all the time but whatever I can lay my hands on and I hope my faithful readers will keep coming back.

Guitarras que hacen amor 2005 © James Presley

So who am I? My name is James Presley and I started painting about 5 years ago and have passionate about it ever since. I love to express myself and don’t feel at home doing landscapes, figurative art, or or anything like that. I never used to be able to understand abstract art and what the artist was trying to say until I saw ‘Pollock’, the movie, with Ed Harris. It was such an insight into the artists mind that I really felt moved by it. Not long after I went through a traumatic experience in my life, and as a therapy I began to paint. I had a lot of time and did it every day. I felt so relaxed and so switched off from the world, that I never stopped. One day I went to this cafe and I noticed they were exhibiting so I spoke to the Manager and said I would like to try it, and she agreed. I just wanted to see what people thought, and was what I was doing expressing anything to anybody else. I left a comments book at had useful feedback.

Africa , 2003 © James Presley

At the time I wasn’t really sure what I was doing and hadn’t found myself. I was just experimenting really. I wanted to drip and splash, but I was afraid people would say that I was copying so I carried on experimenting. I discovered that I loved to paint on huge canvases, because the surface gave me more room to express myself. On a smaller canvas I felt enclosed as if there were a fence around the edge. Below is the first large painting I produced. It was about 3 meters long and 1 meter 80 centimeters high. It was absolute bliss painting it.

Eyes in the forest 2005 © James Presley

Over the next couple of years I began to experiment with the drip and splash technique had some exhibitions and people liked it. So I carried on, did some bigger ones smaller ones, sold some gave some awy, and painted everyday, well almost.

spring Dance 2005 © James Presley. 300cm x 150cm

I had been living abroad for 14 years and decided it was time to go back to England, as there was nothing else for me to do in Hungary. I had made a bit of a name for myself had several exhibitions and enjoyed my stay there, but I felt that maybe England could offer me more. Then I discovered that England did not inspire me, well at first it didn’t anyway. I had to leave all my paintings in Hungary, although I have managed to get some back now.

Nature – divided 5. 70cm x 100cm 2006 © James Presley (one that was left behind)

One day in August 2006 I went and bought a massive canvas and just painted. A few months later I read about an international art competition, and thought I would give it a go. I entered the painting, and after a while completely forgot about it. Then suddenly found I had won an International art competition. I couldn’t believe it, it took forever to sink in.

Flowers and Space – Blue.
Winner of Abstract and Experimental Category, Artist of the Year 2007.
77cm x 122cm 2006 © James Presley.

Anyway, I am getting somewhere now, and I do want to be recognized and have major exhibitions and maybe one day have a show in The Tate Modern, Or MoMa. If you put your mind to it anything is possible.

Here is a statement I wrote on my own website:

I believe art can be a learned process, it is also natural and a matter of what we see, feel and where we allow our hands to dance on the canvas, or our hands dance without our minds controlling them. You can learn the techniques but you cannot learn to tell your mind to be satisfied with the techniques you have learned. When I am with the paintbrush, I always feel like we are dancing together, sometimes harmoniously sometimes against each other. Sometimes we are dancing the Tango, sometimes a Waltz, sometimes we caress each other to a slow romantic dance and sometimes we are in aggressive moments of passion. If there is harmony, it is possible to produce something which shows harmony, if there is no harmony then you may as well put the brush down until you feel it come back.

Please visit the site and if you are representing artists I would be interested to talk if you are. James Presley The Web Gallery

Harvard gets Barnett Newman cache

The Centre for the Technical Study of Modern Art, a research division of the Harvard University Art Museums, has been given Barnett Newman’s studio materials and related ephemera.

The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation donated the materials to assist scholars in the collection, study and conservation of Newman’s paintings. The gift complements the University’s existing archive of Newman’s correspondence and works of art previously donated by his wife Annalee.

A leading member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Newman’s monochromatic paintings, marked by single vertical bands which he called “zips”, have proven difficult to restore. In 1977 a team of conservators investigated Newman’s materials and painting techniques after a visitor to the Stedelijk Museum made five large slashes in the canvas of Cathedra (1951).

The gift, which includes discarded paint trials, notes, unpublished sketches, and cardboard models of his best-known sculpture, Broken Obelisk (1963), gives researchers technical information about the artist’s studio practice.

Yan Pei-Ming gives portraits of Resistance leader to France

The Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming, who has lived in Paris for the last 20 years, has given three portraits of the French Resistance hero Guy Môquet to France. He was asked to make the works by President Sarkozy.

Yan Pei Ming, Portrait de la Tante YYZ, 1999, Oil on canvas, 79 x 79 inches

One is going to the Lycée Carnot, Môquet’s former Paris college, a second is currently on display in the office of the French Prime Minister, François Fillon (right), and will then go to the office of President Sarkozy, according to a spokeswoman for the French Culture Ministry. The third will go to the Culture Ministry and may then be displayed at the Musée de la Résistance in Champigny-sur-Marne.

Môquet, a communist resistance fighter, was shot dead by Nazi soldiers in 1941, aged 17. In his inaugural address in May, President Sarkozy referred to a letter written by Môquet which will be read out in French schools at the start of each new year.

The artist’s London dealer, Opera Gallery, says that the artist is also “very close to Dominique de Villepin, the former Prime Minister, who commissioned him to paint his portrait in 2005”.

Nazi Art on Display at Grohmann Museum

Nazi associations of collection “not relevant” says founder of new museum

The art on show includes works by artists collected by Hitler and displayed in exhibitions sponsored by the Third Reich

the Grohmann Museum with its nine-foot sculptures of labourers on the roof and the

In praise of workers: the Grohmann Museum with its nine-foot sculptures of labourers on the roof and the “Kaiserdom” inspired by Sir Norman Foster’s addition to the Reichstag in Berlin

NEW YORK. The new Grohmann Museum, which is dedicated to art showing “the evolution of human work”, has been called to account for failing to display any information about the art’s association with the Nazi regime. The institution opened in October at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).

While the school celebrated the opening of its first cultural asset, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel asked why works of

art produced under the Third Reich are displayed without texts explaining their historical background.

The museum houses more than 700 paintings and sculptures, most by little known 20th-century German and Northern European artists, but includes works attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Jan van Goyen, Max Liebermann and Frederic Remington. Subjects include farming, mining, glassblowing, construction, iron and steel production and heavy industry.

SS Guards - Painting by Ferdinand Staeger
[ SS-Wache (SS Guards) – Ferdinand Staeger. Oil painting. Year unknown

The museum’s founding benefactor is MSOE regent and Milwaukee industrialist Eckhart G. Grohmann, 71, who was born in Silesia, Germany (today part of Poland) and emigrated to the US in 1962 where he bought a small foundry that he built into Aluminum Casting & Engineering Co.

He joined the board of MSOE in 1974 and donated his “Men at Work” collection in 2001, stipulating that none of the works ever be exchanged or sold. He also provided funds to purchase and renovate the museum that bears his name, and acquired an adjacent building providing rental income that will support the museum. Mr Grohmann named John Kopmeier, an engineer whom he knew socially, to serve as director.

The three-storey brick building, originally an automobile dealership, has a new glass turret inspired by architect Sir Norman Foster’s addition to the Reichstag in Berlin. Mr Groh­mann says this “Kaiserdom” was his idea, as was the rooftop phalanx of a dozen nine-foot bronzes that he commissioned based on statues of muscular workers in the collection, and the ceiling paintings of inventors and a stained-glass window depicting workers commissioned for the atrium. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s verdict is that: “the effect is rather like Old World Berlin as reinterpreted by Walt Disney”.

Mr Grohmann amassed his collection over four decades, buying from auction houses in Germany and Switzerland, as well as various other sources. “I have very little competition because [the paintings] are not the sort of things you hang over your sofa,” he says.

The most heavily represented artist, with 81 works, is Erich Mercker (1891-1973) whose images of German industry were endorsed by the Third Reich and exhibited in the annual Nazi-sanctioned “Great German Art Exhibition” in 1937. The museum labels cite only his name, dates and titles and the museum website does not refer to his Nazi ties either. Other artists in the Grohmann collection known to have worked with the Nazis are Ferdinand Staeger—whose work was collected by Hitler—Ria Picco-Rückert, and Otto Hamel. All of them participated in the annual Nazi exhibitions. The collection also includes work by Magnus Zeller, a German who opposed the Nazis.

The art on display includes a Mercker painting of a U-boat building facility (left) and a 1942 Picco-Rückert picture of Nazi steel manufacturing, but Mr Grohmann denies that any of his paintings glorify the Third Reich. “Propaganda pictures would show flags and swastikas,” he contends, apparently ignoring scholarship that suggests otherwise. Art historian Mark Antliff, for example, has written that “the Nazis propagated a ‘myth-image’ [through] imagery devoted to ‘the sanctification of creative work’,” and cites Staeger and Picco-Rückert as portraying workers engaged in their “‘sacred’ effort to create ‘the eternal Germany.’” Others have noted that labourers depicted in Nazi paintings are likely conscripts from concentration camps.

Mr Grohmann and Mr Kopmeier say that historical context is irrelevant to the museum. “The mission is to educate MSOE students primarily about art, what industry was like years ago, why we are where we are right now,” says Mr Kopmeier, adding that Mr Grohmann is responsible for the institution’s content. “He’s the one that collects the art, and what goes on the wall is a decision he would make,” he told The Art Newspaper. “We don’t know that any was actually commissioned by the Third Reich,” says Mr Grohmann, “and to be honest I wouldn’t care. It is a totally subject-oriented collection for the purpose of teaching at the technical university. I don’t politicise pictures.”

US Jewish organisations have not voiced strong objections to the museum, but some have asked for disclosure of provenance and historical context. University president Hermann Viets says he is not concerned with the allegations of whitewashing the artists’ Nazi pasts. “We are perfectly open about it,” he says, citing a catalogue that includes more information than appears on the museum walls. Asked if he personally condemns the Nazi regime, Mr Grohmann replied: “I do not make any political statements. I just don’t do it.”